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2/18 Big Ten Preview: Wolverines, Buckeyes clash in ranked rivalry matchup

Five possible NCAA Tournament teams will be in action today, including a big-time game between Michigan and Ohio State.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks from now we will be crowning a Big Ten Tournament champion, but before we reach that point we need to figure out who will be the regular season champion. A few of today’s games will factor into that.

Five of the Big Ten’s top six teams will all be in action today, including two big-time matchups between Ohio State-Michigan and Penn State-Purdue. Throw in an intriguing road trip to Champaign for the Cornhuskers and we are looking at a great day of basketball in the Big Ten.

Some NCAA Tournament dreams could be fueled or crushed today. Some teams’ chances at winning the Big Ten regular season championship could take a hit. This is the best kind of basketball. Let’s take a look at some previews for today’s three games.

Big Ten Game of the Day:

-No. 8 Ohio State at No. 22 Michigan

  • Time/TV: 1:00PM ET/CBS
  • KenPom Spread: Michigan (-2)

Revenge has to be on the minds of the Wolverines as they welcome the first-place Buckeyes to the Crisler Center for a rivalry matchup between ranked foes this afternoon. Michigan let a 20-point lead slip through their hands in the first matchup against Ohio State this year, with the Buckeyes storming back to win 71-62 in December. Will this one play out similarly or will the Wolverines knock Ohio State from the Big Ten’s top spot heading into the final week of conference play?

Michigan enters this matchup with more momentum than the Buckeyes with the Wolverines picking up convincing wins in their last two games. A big part of Michigan’s success in those two games was Duncan Robinson. The senior guard has been shooting lights out from three-point range with four makes in both games and a combined 10-for-15 output from deep. He was 1-for-5 from three-point range in the first meeting with Ohio State, so he’ll need a much better performance to help Michigan pickup the victory today.

Ohio State comes into Sunday reeling a bit after losing by 23-points on Thursday against Penn State. It was truly a perfect storm that night with Penn State just smacking the Buckeyes in the mouth and never giving them a chance to get into the game. That performance could serve as a wakeup call and help Ohio State going forward, or could shake their confidence.

Keita Bates-Diop had an off night against Penn State despite scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds. He’s the straw that stirs Ohio State, and he’ll need to have a better performance against Michigan today. Look for the winner of the Bates-Diop and Mo Wagner battle to win this game.

I like the Wolverines in this game for a number of reasons: 1) Duncan Robinson has found his stroke lately and he’s huge for Michigan going forward, 2) Ohio State looked shaky in a tough road environment earlier this week, and 3) the Wolverines are tough to beat in Crisler — 15-1 home record this year. Throw in that Michigan will be fueled by revenge and I like the Wolverines for the upset this afternoon.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Michigan

The Rest:

-Nebraska Cornhuskers at Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Time/TV: 3:30PM ET/BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Nebraska (-2)

This is the worst kind of game for a team like Nebraska that is battling for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. It’s almost like a lose-lose scenario with not much to be gained for the Cornhuskers but a lot that can be lost.

Nebraska must win this game to help further their chances at making the NCAA Tournament. The narrative for Nebraska has been the same for the past few weeks — Nebraska won’t have a chance until the Big Ten Tournament to pick up more quality wins so they have to just keep piling on the wins as they go. This is another one of those wins they need to pickup because a loss to the Fighting Illini would be crushing to their dreams of going dancing.

Penn State was in a similar scenario last week against Illinois, and the Nittany Lions took care of business. That was mainly done by protecting the ball and not getting caught in Illinois’ aggressive defensive attack. Nebraska will have to do the same today and not commit a ton of turnovers, and the good news is the Cornhuskers are only averaging 10.6 turnovers per game in league play — that ranks fourth in the Big Ten.

Nebraska is more talented and as long as they don’t lay an egg they’ll find a way to win this game. It could be close throughout, but the Cornhuskers will find a way to win this game. They have no other choice if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Nebraska

-Penn State Nittany Lions at No. 6 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 8:00PM ET/BTN
  • KenPom Spread: Purdue (-10.5)

Boy oh boy, have the tables turned in this matchup. Who would have thought it’d be the Nittany Lions who would be entering this matchup with all of the momentum and Purdue would be the team who is crumbling down the stretch. Probably not many, but that’s what we have right now.

Penn State will look to attack while there’s still blood in the water in today’s final Big Ten game. The Nittany Lions picked up a huge win over Ohio State earlier this week to improve themselves to 6-1 across the last seven games, and on that same night Purdue fell to the lousy Wisconsin Badgers to drop their third straight game. The recent hot stretch of Penn State and Purdue’s rut makes for what should be an entertaining matchup tonight.

This game will come down to a few factors, but the one I’ll focus on is who will get more out of their top scorer. Tony Carr has been the catalyst leading the way for Penn State, and he’s been even better as of late. He scored 30 against Ohio State this week, and is now averaging 21.3 points across their last seven games. For Purdue, there have been a lot of scoring threats but none more consistent than Carsen Edwards. Despite losing the last three games, Edwards is also averaging 21.3 points. So whoever gets more out of their leading scorer will have a shot at snagging this win.

The KenPom Spread seems way to high for me so I like Penn State to cover. I’m not sure if the Nittany Lions will be able to replicate Thursday’s performance and I’d be truly shocked to see Purdue lose a fourth straight game. Boilermakers have the edge to win this game, but it should be a close one throughout.

  • Pick Against The Spread: Penn State

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Record against the spread this season: 23-14-1